Living up to the excellence of Shusuke Kaneko's Death Note films wasalways going to be a daunting task. The makers of this film respondedto this challenge by avoiding it.<br><br>The film's prominent ties to its predecessors, most notably theinclusion of several characters and events from them, are entirelysuperficial, and I was left with the distinct impression that Nakata'sprimary desire was to make a bioterrorism thriller, with the Death Notemovies and the character of L serving merely as convenientspringboards.<br><br>After going to the trouble of hiring several actors to reprise theirroles, (Such as Erika Toda as Misa, Asaka Seto as Naomi Misora, andShunji Fujimura) their characters are criminally underused. This is notjust lazy, it is cruel. It's the equivalent of dangling food in frontof a starving dog only to pull it away after only letting them lick it.Even the unperceptive viewer can tell these are blatant attempts tofake a connection which is essentially nonexistent.<br><br>The sheer magnitude of neglected opportunities to capitalise on thewealth of plot and character established by the Death Note films isstaggering. A event as stupendous as Kira's reign of death would have alasting effect on society; the Death Note films show the beginnings ofthis, with people divided over whether his actions were right, and manysupporting him to a religious degree. Yet in L: Change the WorLd, itsalmost as if none of it had ever happened. Life goes on as usual, withscarcely a mention of the monumental upheaval the world has justundergone. This also could've provided many interesting possibilities,such as the Kira cult becoming involved in the plot, or characters suchas Misa and Ryuk playing new roles and continuing to develop.Apparently, Nakata couldn't care less.<br><br>What's more, he can't resist falling back on his roots as a horrordirector, and is determined to scare the audience with the victims ofthe virus. Unfortunately, the result is corniness rather thanadrenaline. The rest if the time, he's either plodding through thedrama on autopilot, or inserting light comedy in a haphazard manner.<br><br>The writing isn't much better. The script is brimming with triteclichés, yet is oblivious to this and makes no effort to put a freshspin on them. It has some admirable aspirations, namely its attempts toexplore L's human side, and capture the topical issues of terrorism andthe Bird Flu/SARS scares in the same way that its prequels addressedjustice and the death penalty, but in execution it fails. Overall, itlargely plays like amateur fanfiction, overusing the surface strengthsof the originals (namely L's eccentricity) while losing its deeperstrengths. Interesting ideas are left to rot on a compost heap ofgeneric characters, messy plotting, and lame attempts to emulate theexcesses of the typical Hollywood action movie.<br><br>To his immense credit, Kenichi Matsuyama lifts L above this malaise andsqueezes a river of blood from the stony script in his typically wittyand charismatic performance. Once again, he embodies the character downto his finest mannerisms, and makes like he just crept off the set ofThe Last Name. True, his English skills are modest, but this isactually believable; I met many Japanese people who spoke in this wayduring my time in Japan.<br><br>Sadly, however, much the use of English throughout the film isreminiscent of the Heisei Godzilla series in its grating inanity. Also,the Japanese performances outside of Matsuyama range from decent,(Fukuda Mayuko as Maki) to downright cheesy. (Most of the villains)Even Erika Toda as Misa had none of the spark Kaneko drew out of her inthe prequels during her brief cameo.<br><br>Even Death Note veteran Kenji Kawai's score, while certainly not bad,is a far cry from his work on the previous films, though largelybecause he's mostly forcibly limited to low key background music andthe long periods of sluggish silence Nakata so adores. He finally findsa chance to shine towards the end, where he provides two impressivepieces; an epic cue that accompanies L's arrival at the climax, and amelancholy piece that fits the fittingly touching conclusion nicely.<br><br>Cinematography is also a step down, losing the smooth, rich clarity ofthe Death Note movies for a dry and altogether bland visual style.<br><br>Thankfully it's not all doom and gloom; there's some good apples amongthe piles of rotten ones. As mentioned previously, the ending issuitably poignant, though the tears it almost brought to my eyes aredue primarily to my love of and familiarity with the character. I alsolaughed aloud at several of L's displays of quirkiness, and flushedwith joy at the rare but delicious moments of Death-Note-style"intellectual pwnage." The opening title sequence is slick and classy,capturing the feel of its predecessors wonderfully.<br><br>The FX are strong for a Japanese film, and are actually slightly moreadvanced than those of the first two films. The destruction of theinfected village is vivid and impressive, and the practical effects forvirus's symptoms are mostly well done. Ryuk's execution via CGI duringhis brief appearance is about on par with his previous incarnations.<br><br>But you know something's wrong when your counting the good momentsrather than the bad ones.<br><br>In the end, the film's highlights are like sweet chocolate chips in abitter and mouldy cookie. It succeeds as fanservice and as coldcommercial calculation, but fails as art, entertainment, orstorytelling. It's an awful shame, because with the ingredients left byits marvellous predecessors, it could have been truly great.